Hivos expresses our utmost consternation and grief at the brutal assassination of Libyan human rights activist Salwa Saad Bugaighis. Salwa was shot and stabbed in her home in Benghazi on 25 June just after casting her vote in the Libyan general election in Libya. She had been receiving threats from Islamic extremists for some time already.
Driving force in Libya’s political transition
Salwa played a very active role in the revolt against Colonel Qaddafi. Her hometown Benghazi was a stronghold of resistance against the dictator in the first half of 2011. After the fall of Gaddafi, the struggle entered a new phase of striving for democracy, women’s rights, freedom and security. Salwa, trained as a lawyer, displayed great perseverance and humanity as she searched relentlessly for opportunities for positive change. She was a member of the National Transitional Council and played a key part in the development of the new Libyan Constitution. Salwa can rightfully be called one of the driving forces in Libya’s political transition.
Invited to the Netherlands
When she was invited to the Netherlands by Hivos and WO=MEN at the beginning of 2012, we experienced her charisma first-hand during meetings with Dutch parliamentarians, foreign affairs officials and journalists. She proved a brave leader and worthy advocate for a democratic Libya: quiet but determined, and with a sympathetic ear for her interlocutors.
When she was a member of the transitional government, more rights for women and disarmament were placed high on its agenda. However, after a few months she gave up her seat in protest at the lack of women in the new government.
Hivos and LWPP will continue her work
People who knew and worked with her have described the day Salwa was murdered as the day when part of Libya died a sad death – the part that has fought tooth and nail against lawlessness and lack of freedom. But Hivos, together with Salwa’s organisation the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, will continue to work to increase the political participation of women in Libya, despite killings like these that make a democratic Libya seem farther away than ever.